Matthew chapter 3 is about John the Baptist and how his ministry and Jesus’ ministry meet. I have always been really intrigued by John. What a unique and amazing calling he had. He was the one the prophet Isaiah talked about when he said a man would come like “a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” I wonder what it would be like to be the actual fulfillment of prophecy!
I think we all have experienced times in our lives (or will someday) when it seems like the reassurance and presence of God that we so long for is far away and unattainable. We could compare these times to a desert, devoid of nourishing water and sand that goes as far as the eye can see in every direction. The blazing sun is hot and we grow weary, longing for shelter. It can seem like the desert is meaningless, and truly it might be if we have not experienced the living water of Jesus, from His well that does not run dry, even in places like the desert.
John went through the desert, both literally and figuratively. Near the end of his life he was in prison, and he sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus for sure if He was the Messiah. As Jesus confirmed this to them, He defended John to the people listening around Him. “What did you go out in the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet…I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he(Matthew 11: 7-11, parts).”
Jesus did not admonish John for his time of doubt, but reinforced his faith and built his reputation in the eyes of the people. Everyone goes through desert times, when we question if the truth we have held onto is the one that really matters. However, like John, our calling is still the same: to be a voice calling in the desert: Prepare the way for the Lord! Like John, we must be reeds that stand strong in the winds of doubt, not easily swayed by the difficulties and storms that wish to destroy us. We are called, even in the desert, to make straight a way for Jesus to come through the pathway of our lives and for others to see Him through us. What an amazing calling that is!
Who is least in the kingdom of heaven? Jesus says plainly that it is the one who is the servant of all. If there’s anything that is true about desert times, it is the fact that those times seem to reduce us to nothing. John the Baptist said, “He must become greater, I must become less (John 3:30).” Paul talks a lot about weakness, and the power of God showing itself best through those times. It all depends on our attitude in the desert. Do we pull ourselves inside of our own little world, living in a pity party of “why me?” This is definitely easy to do. Or do we turn our lives outward, rejoicing in our low position as an opportunity to serve others as Jesus did? Will we die to ourselves and humbly accept the cross that Christ has allowed us to bear for the sake of His name? Will we pick up the towel and the basin and wash the feet of those around us? What an honor it is to bear Christ’s name, whatever that may mean! What an example we have of John the Baptist, who laid down his very life for the love of his Savior. He did not let the desert time weaken his resolve to give all for his Lord. He prepared the way for the Lord until his final breath.
What will be the story of your life? Will you, like John, be a voice calling in the desert? Will you prepare a straight path for Christ to shine through you? Will you be like Jesus, taking the nature of a servant? Will you follow the example of John, who became less so that Jesus could become greater? Even when it seems like there is sand in every direction as far as the eye can see, choose to drink the living water from the well of Jesus that will never run dry. Choose to trust the God who has always proven Himself faithful in your life. And hold on, because even in the longest night, dawn is on its way.